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What Is Memory Care?

The daily care needs of people with severe dementia or Alzheimer’s disease are complex. As these conditions progress, it becomes extremely difficult for loved ones to manage the day-to-day needs of the impaired family member. People who live in memory care facilities have usually progressed to the point where they’re unable to take care of themselves without a great deal of help.

Memory care is also known as Alzheimer’s special care or dementia care units. Sometimes memory care residences are independent facilities solely for people with cognitive issues. More commonly, memory care is a separate wing in an assisted living community or continuing care retirement community (CCRC).



Seniors matching different color shapes with tablet device and cards


What Services Does Memory Care Provide?

Memory care provides a secure, contained environment where patients get help with everyday needs, personal care, and some medical issues. Services and amenities vary by memory care facility. Most accredited memory care units offer the following:

  • Locked facility that requires a passcode or key to enter or exit. 

  • Gated, secure outdoor area.

  • Round-the-clock staff trained in assisting people with severe cognitive issues.

  • Emergency response services, such as call buttons.

  • Access to medical care and physical and occupational therapy.

  • Medication management and administration.

  • Help with eating, dressing, using the restroom, and bathing.

  • Exercise and activities personalized to a resident’s level of functioning.

  • Community outings.

  • Transportation to medical appointments or community outings.

  • Laundry and housekeeping services.

  • Meals and snacks.

  • Help with grooming.

  • On-site salons or visiting beauticians that provide salon services.


Person drawing a brain on paper


How Is Memory Care Different Than Nursing Homes?

Memory care residences are specifically for people with Alzheimer’s or dementia. Nursing homes are for people with a number of physical or mental problems that may or may not include dementia. Both nursing homes and memory care provide 24/7 assistance from staff.

Some people live in nursing homes for several days or weeks while recovering from a surgery or injury. Other people permanently move into nursing homes for challenges like severe mobility issues, mental health issues, functional and cognitive issues, and medical conditions that prevent them from living independently. 

Because memory care units are specific to people with cognitive issues, all aspects of the facility, such as activities, schedule, and building design are planned with the needs of this population in mind. Nursing homes may have a wing dedicated to people with memory issues.

In memory care facilities, patients usually have their own room. Roommates are more common in nursing homes.

Is It Time for Memory Care?

Alzheimer’s disease and dementia are heartbreaking conditions for both the afflicted and their loved ones. The decision to move to memory care is difficult, but it’s sometimes the best option. Some senior living communities are appropriate for people with mild cognitive issues, but severe dementia or Alzheimer’s patients are best suited for memory care or a nursing home. 

Signs memory care might be necessary:

  1. Wandering off or getting lost.

  2. Inability to get dressed or use the toilet independently.

  3. Frequent mood swings, agitation, and outbursts.

  4. Confusion and disorientation.

  5. Difficulty speaking.

  6. Problems remembering recent events, friends, and family members.

  7. Decrease in coordination.

  8. Hallucinations or paranoia.

If you or a loved one is struggling with cognitive issues, but are not experiencing the above issues, speak with a senior living community expert. They can help you determine which setting is best for your specific needs.


Male seniors confused looking at a calendar


How Much Does Memory Care Cost?

The cost of memory care is $5,000 a month on average. That amount varies by location and the amenities and level of care offered. Memory care costs more than other senior living options because of the extent of daily assistance provided and extra security. Nurses and caregivers are specially trained in dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. They are onsite around the clock to help with needs, and get residents to meals, activities, and the restroom. 

How To Pay for Memory Care

Memory care patients usually pay for expenses through a combination of funds, such as:

  • Social security

  • Medicaid (if receiving care in a medicaid-approved skilled nursing facility)

  • State programs for low-income seniors

  • Personal savings

  • Real estate profits

It’s extremely difficult for a spouse or other loved one to manage the care of someone with significant cognitive issues by themselves. If you or a loved one is struggling, reach out to a medical professional for help. There are care options that can make life safer, easier, and more enjoyable for everyone.


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